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On Narcissus | Johnny Tang Photo

On Narcissus

Narcissus

Narcissus (from the series World of One)

As the name implies, this piece was inspired by the story of Narcissus from Greek myth. In summation, Narcissus was a hunter who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. He then died of starvation, as he refused to take his eyes off himself. This is essentially meant to be a cautionary tale: Basically, don’t be too much of a douche.

I feel as if we now live in a hyper-narcissistic society. Social media has enabled us all to live in our own digital “World of One”s. Whenever we sign online, the digital world that we inhabit is personalized and catered towards our specific needs. In other words, it’s all about us. We now literally watch other people watching us. To me, it feels like my reflection has run away and has taken on a life of its own, not all that different from Peter Pan’s shadow.

The great post-modernist philosopher Michel Foucault famously described society as a Panopticon: A special type of prison in the shape of a nipple, with the guard tower in the middle and the cells surround the tower in the outer ring. The inmates can’t see into the guard tower, but the guards can see into the cells, giving the inmates the feeling that they are always being watched. Foucault said that, in society, we are simultaneously both guards as well as inmates of the Panopticon that makes up our social landscape. I find that this has never been more true than it is now. Big Brother is already here, and it is us: Our own reflections stare back at us, watching us from the water’s surface.

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